Fresh-faced, Philadelphia-based musician, Heyward Howkins recently released his debut album “Hale and Hearty”. Right away, it's clear that Howkins possesses a jazzy, earthy style distinct from anything we have heard. The first track “Thunderin' Stop” introduces the album with an airy guitar melody and velvet smooth strings. I was immediately attracted to it's peculiar lyrics and pastoral setting. It seemed that Howkins took something that's already been done and added something completely fresh and unique to it.
While I was right in the midst of loving it, sadly, he lost me. I found myself tapping along with catchy moments of the songs, but without warning it would take an unexpected turn and seem like a different song altogether. He dances sporadically from one tempo to another and his once clever arrangements had failed to give me so
mething to hold onto. Songs like “Hale and Hearty” and “Plume and Orange” feel awkward and uneasy. Each with the potential to be three great songs within one.
The most balanced song of the album, “Raucous Call of Morning” is actually anything but raucous. It is a dreamy, multi-layered track that exhibits Howkins' likeness to Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine with their perfectly orchestrated menagerie of accompaniment. Howkins exhibits amazing skill in harmony and composition, but I'm afraid some songs on Hale and Hearty are just more than I can handle.
Ultimately, Heyward Howkins will get under your skin, as he did mine. The point is that even if some of his songs may not sit well with you, you have to appreciate that each note and sound is exactly where he intended it to be. He is no doubt, a very talented, proficient musician. I'd love to see him collaborate with artists like Beth Orton or Neko Case, someone who could match his jazz style but also help tone him down and reign in the musical artistry that he possesses.
3 out of 5 stars